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Concern over backlog for cochlear implants

Parents campaigning on the issue still hope to meet the Health Minister over the issue of bilateral cochlear implants for children.

Billy Cairns
Billy Cairns
Image: Deanna Cairns

PARENTS CAMPAIGNING FOR bilateral cochlear implants for Irish children are concerned about the ‘backlog’ and waiting time for cochlear operations.

They hope that it is addressed as if bilateral implants are introduced as standard, there could be long waiting times for children who only have a certain period during which they are suitable for the implants to improve their hearing.

Members of the Happy New Ear campaign recently met with Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch, and continue to work on meeting the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Health Minister James Reilly as part of their campaign.

It is hoped that Minister James Reilly will meet the parents at some point in the near future, perhaps utilising the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee for this purpose.

Currently, it is typical practice to fit Irish children diagnosed with needing cochlear implants with one implant. In the vast majority of countries, it is practice to fit bilateral implants, so that both ears benefit. The Happy New Ear parents want bilateral implants to be fitted as standard and are campaigning for this to be introduced.

Happy New Ear

Deanna Cairns of the Happy New Ear campaign, whose son Billy has one cochlear implant, said that the meeting with Minister Kathleen Lynch went well.

“She was very nice,” said Cairns. “She just said she couldn’t make any commitments – we understand that”. The health committee has invited the Happy New Ear campaign to address them before the end of June, which Cairns said was positive news for the campaign.

The parents are currently waiting on a business plan report for Beaumont Hospital – which carries out the cochlear implants – by June 13, which will give an insight into the plans and equipment that are needed for bilateral implants to be available in the hospital.

They are waiting for this year’s Budget to be announced to find out if a bilateral implant scheme can be introduced using special funding.

Cairns said Ms Laura Viani of the National Cochlear Implant Programme said she needs to know as soon as possible if the scheme can be introduced, so that Beaumont can begin to put the resources in place to deal with the influx of new patients.

Currently, there is a waiting list for single implants, and Cairns said that parents are concerned about this and hope the backlog can be addressed.

“It is going to be a major concern how are they going to cope with the backlog,” said Cairns. “There are a lot of kids and time is running out.”

The longer it’s left, the bigger the backlog.

She said it is “a case of just keeping the pressure on” so that “[the government] realise we are not going to go away”.

When it comes down to your kids you are going to keep fighting for them.

When the parents met Minister Lynch, they handed in a petition that contained 3,200 signatures. They hope to eventually meet the Taoiseach – “we only want a few minutes”, said Cairns.

She said her son Billy “is doing great” after a recent operation on his cochlear implant. He has recently acquired three more words and different sounds.

Read: Billy’s fight to hear as parents call for cochlear implants>

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